We set out to look for the mating pair of leopards that had been seen near the Sand River. With her daughter pretty much independent, the Nkoveni female has been seen mating with the Flat Rock male, and their tracks led towards an area clogged with reeds in Londolozi’s far western sector.
A young female that lives to the east and south of camp. Easily recognised by her 2:2 spot pattern she is often to be found in Marula trees.
A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.
Following the trail, we spotted the slightest flicking of an ear in the long grass, but it was unmistakably a leopard. A separate tail flicking on the opposite side of a water channel revealed the presence of the second leopard. For some reason the mating pair had split, and were now lying in the long grass on different sides of a large pool.
When leopards mate they will often do so every 15 minutes or so, for up to 5 days at a time, but for whatever reason, the pair seemed quite lethargic on this particular afternoon. However, recognising the enormous photographic potential of one of the pair possibly leaping over the pool, we sat and waited. And waited. And waited for a full two hours before we saw the Nkoveni female start to yawn; a sign that she was very likely to get moving soon. She yawned three times in quick succession, then stood up and stretched. The light was fading rapidly and the leopards were now in shadow, so we were silently urging the female to hurry up.
We all sat ready, our collective breaths held, fingers on shutter buttons.
And then she leaped:
She soared effortlessly across the pool, landing lightly right next to the much larger male.
The pair mated about three or four times, but suddenly the Nkoveni female stiffened, staring intently towards the Southern bank. From out of the reeds another leopard arrived, and in the lowering light we recognised the Nhlanguleni female, who is territorial in that area. Interestingly enough it was the Flat Rock male who scurried away first, closely followed by the Nkoveni female who was a good couple of kilometres beyond her territorial boundary.
Born to the Tutlwa female in early-mid 2011, the Nhlanguleni female spent her formative months (and years) in and around the Sand River.
We didn’t see them again as they disappeared into the thickets, but what we had already seen was well worth the wait.